By Kara Halderman, Contributing blogger
With 2020 underway it’s tempting to dive into a new diet. A simple click to Instagram opens the door to new 30 day food challenges everywhere. While trying something new is great, what goes up must come down. According to Forbes magazine, “studies show only 25% of people stick to their resotions after just 30 days.”
We can do better than this!
As a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, instead of setting potentially short term resolutions, I’m always looking big picture. How can we be healthy long term?
Long term health is not about another diet or quick weight loss. It’s building a lifestyle around health that will ultimately help you reach those goals. A recently popular way to achieve this is through intuitive eating. It was quite a hot topic in 2019. Intuitive eating promises to be a long term solution to cut chronic dieting and get healthy for good.
But what’s the catch?
What Is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is an “anti-diet,” meaning it rejects all societal norms around food. There are no good or bad foods, calorie counting, meal plans or restriction. Sounds great right?
Intuitive eating ditches everything we were told about food and tuning into our body's natural cues, like hunger and satiety. As kids we intuitively knew when and what we wanted to eat. We cried when hungry, stopped when full and trusted our cravings. As we grow older and become exposed to what intuitive eaters call “diet culture,” we lose those intuitive cues and start to develop emotional dependency around food.
Intuitive eating breaks down diet culture by embracing complete and unconditional acceptance towards all foods, while learning how to tune into innate instincts.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t rules though. Okay, “principles” as they call them. Here are the 10 principles of intuitive eating as outlined in the 1995 book “Intuitive Eating” by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole. Check out the book or this blog post for a more detailed look.
- Reject The Diet Mentality
- Honor Your Hunger
- Make Peace With food
- Challenge The Food Police
- Feel Your Fullness
- Discover The Satisfaction Factor
- Cope With Your Emotions Without Using Food
- Respect Your Body
- Exercise- Feel The Difference
- Honor Your Health With Gentle Nutrition
Who Does It Help?
From the looks of it, mostly anyone! Intuitive eating is radically inclusive. Since it’s not a diet anyone of any race, body shape and size could benefit from some of its teachings. Specifically, intuitive eating is designed to help serial dieters make peace with food and trust their bodies again.
Before you say, “but I’m not a chronic dieter!” Ask yourself, do I:
Make new year's resolutions every year that involve restricting food intake or types?
Go “off the rails” with food or alcohol on the weekends resulting in guilt and shame?
Label certain foods as off limits, unhealthy or bad?
Put weight loss as a priority over health?
If yes, intuitive eating could benefit you. But don’t just take my word for it, studies show the principles of intuitive eating can result in:
- Lower body mass index
- Lower rates of emotional eating
- Increased self esteem
- Better body image
- Increased satisfaction with life
Will It Help Me Stay Motivated?
Yes...and no. With intuitive eating, there is nothing to stay motivated for. I know, crazy concept! There are no goals to hit or resolutions to stay on track for. If you’re cringing at the thought of this (like i was many years ago), I challenge you to embrace this modality.
How could your health benefit by loosening the reins on food, and following what makes your body feel good?
How would your life change by eliminating food guilt?
Wouldn’t it be nice to no longer obsess about everything put into your mouth?
I will say, this is a challenge and massive process. The key is no longer fighting against your body. After all, what you resist persists. The more your embrace the process the more motivation you will feel to continue a healthy lifestyle.
Ok, What’s The Catch?
If you’re thinking it’s too good to be true, you’re right. There’s no such thing as a free lunch!
In my nutrition coaching and personal experience I’ve noticed there are kinks to intuitive eating. The biggest one being that most people don’t understand what true intuition is, and it can take a long time to tap into.
Intuition is a knowing. Have you ever just known someone was bad news, or that you shouldn’t go to that party? You don’t know how you know, but you just know. That’s intuition. If you’ve experienced this before it’s quite a phenomenon.
When it comes to food I find we don’t experience that knowing as often, and end up confusing feelings for intuition. Sometimes this isn’t always the best for our physical health. Someone could feel like eating ice cream every day and call that intuitive eating. They have no shame or guilt towards it, and even feel great! Cravings, sugar addition and chemical reactions in the body are confused for being intuitive. It may take longer to understand what foods really benefit the body the most.
This was my personal struggle with intuitive eating, but I found that over time my body felt the repercussions of eating ice cream every single day. Naturally I adjusted my diet to foods that made me feel better.
Ready To Dive In?
Despite potential setbacks, intuitive eating takes a spotlight. Give these tips a go and see just how much it can benefit your physical and mental well-being!